Beat the Rush – 2019/2020 Literary Awards Program

Sheri Hoyte Managing Editor

Sheri Hoyte
Managing Editor

Can you believe it’s mid-August already?  Can you believe our local home improvement store has its artificial Christmas trees out already?!  That’s just wrong. The temperature’s been 100+ for the last few weeks in Texas! Not only that, but those Christmas trees are taking up good space that could be used for the super early Halloween displays - LOL! It’s too much!

Anyway, now that summer is winding down and the kids are heading back to school, I thought it would be a great time to share some information about our Literary Awards, which we have been hosting since 2005!  We have received so many inspiring books already that it looks like this will be another great program.

I’m happy to note that we’ve done away with the early bird registration fee, meaning the standard entry fee will remain at the $89 price throughout the submission period. You asked - we listened!

That said, there’s no reason to wait until December to submit your book. The next couple of months are the actually the best months to get your entries in - before the mad rush to beat the December deadline. This also gives our reviewers more time to read!

All awards submissions receive the following with each entry:

  • Book Review – Each title will receive a book review. The review will be posted on our websites, either or They will also be posted on the Thoughtcrawlers and Reader Views blogs.  Authors will also receive a PDF copy of the review for promotional use.

  • Social Media Postings – Review will be shared and promoted on our Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages. Be sure to follow us on social media so you can share the news we post about your books with your followers.

  • We will also post your review on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble if your book is listed with these organizations.

  • News – Review will be featured on the Recent Reviews dedicated page of These reviews are rotated on a weekly basis.

All entries must be post-marked by December 31, 2019. With so many intriguing titles submitted in all categories, the anticipation is already building! Find out more about the 2019-2020 Literary Awards and guidelines here.  If you have any questions, email us at

To Escape: But Just a Little

Skyler Boudreau Editorial Contributor/Reviewer

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor/Reviewer

All stories, good or bad, need a conflict. Without one, there isn’t a story at all. The conflict is what drives the characters forward in the plot. It can be something as small as two employees competing for a promotion to the same position, or something as large as two opposing armies fighting over a piece of territory. Conflict breathes life into all other elements of a story.

Just like in stories, conflict is an inescapable part of life. You will find it wherever you look for it, and even in some places you don’t. On the whole, I would say that most conflicts are unenjoyable for both the participants and the observers. The exception here lies with events like a good debate. There is something exhilarating about watching opposite sides carefully argue their respective points. Some people are hungry for that kind of fight. However, even they will avoid a situation they find too uncomfortable.

Isn’t it strange that, while using reading as a means of escape, we dive directly into the conflicts of someone else’s life? The characters in books might be fictional, but there are often striking similarities between their problems and their audience’s. That relatability is one of the things that keeps reading interesting.

Perhaps “escape” is a poor word. A more accurate one might be “divert.” A reader isn’t truly escaping conflicts in their lives when they open a book but is instead diverting their attention to see how someone else deals with a potentially similar situation. They can imagine they are that character, standing tall and strong, staring down an opponent as they might wish to meet the gaze of an intimidating boss. Once the story is over, the reader might find the courage to emulate that brave character as they handle a parallel situation in real life.

Conflicts themselves don’t seem to vary all that much. Subject A and Subject B both want the same thing. They fight. Subject A wants something that prevents Subject B from attaining what they want. They fight. There’s nothing wrong with this. Conflicts may change shape, but they rarely change theme. We all encounter the same ones.

Reading may, in fact, be a means of escaping. But only a little.

The Surf (Based on True Events from Susan Violante’s Maui Vacation)

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

As promised in an earlier editorial, here is an installment of the short story about my Maui near-death kayak adventure!

Susan gasped, as she surfaced from the almost tsunami size wave, desperately pulling down her choking lifejacket. For a moment she considers taking it off, but immediately remembers that she can’t swim. The smell of the ocean overwhelmed her, the taste of the ocean now in her respiratory track, burned within her. She turned around looking for her husband, when she found herself under another wave. Surprisingly, she comes out of it alive, although suffocating in the salty water. She opens her eyes to see a wall of water rising in front of her again. She puts her fingers on the snap button of the lifejacket, ready to cut it loose…God, thank you for letting me die in such a beautiful place…

- - -

A month before Surf time

Susan and Michael have barely lived as a couple two years out of the 30 that they have been together. One was before the arrival of their first daughter, the other after the last daughter moved out, and before Susan’s parents moved in with them four years before. Yes, they needed a vacation, so when Nico (the oldest) and her husband gifted them a week at a Maui resort, they couldn’t pack their bags any faster; especially Susan. She had spent the previous year in a wheelchair after triple surgery on her foot gone wrong. She still needed the cane to walk, but that was not going to spoil her romantic getaway. They signed up for all the adventures they found on the resort’s website that matched their bucket list.

“Let’s do the zipline!” said Michael in a tone that resembled a 12-year-old.

“I want to do the horseback trail!” replied 11-year-old Susan.

In the end, they realized that Susan would be limited to water adventures thanks to her bad foot, so they booked all of them and settled on the zipline for Michael and a spa day for Susan. The youthful excitement kept them going until May 27th, departure day. They had shipped her parents off to Florida the day before to visit her sister while they were gone; her daughter would dog-sit her puppies. After four years of chaos everything fell easily into place for them to take some time for themselves…it was too good to be true.

- - -

…God please let Michael live so that he can take care of my family, Susan prayed silently while contemplating losing her lifejacket for a quick end. She didn’t have time to finish her prayer or snap loose her jacket. The wall of ocean fell on her a third time, taking her under further this time. Her mind went blank, not sure if she was pushing herself up or down further. She had lost track of time when suddenly, she could breathe air again…

(more next week!)

What Does it Mean to be a Main Character? A Teen Perspective

Faryal Jabbar Teen/YA Reviewer Reader Views Kids

Faryal Jabbar
Teen/YA Reviewer
Reader Views Kids

The seven of us sat together around the plastic table inside our local froyo shop one day when our book-obsessed friend looked up from her latest fanfiction and questioned, “Which one of us would be the main character?” We all turned to our tall, fiery, red-headed friend, and unanimously agreed she would be the obvious lead. As we walked out of the pink store, my best friend tilted her head and asked me, “Why couldn’t we be the main characters?” That question has stuck with me. What does it really mean to be the main character?

I looked at many books and questioned how an author can choose a single character to expose to their audience. The genre that was the hardest to analyze was war stories. There are thousands of people who are involved in war, and this generates millions of stories. The author has to make the decision to choose the one story that will capture the hearts of the readers. I realized that each of us is the main character in our own life or rather our own story. It seems as though new authors develop their main characters from their own life stories and place them in a high school or on the battlefield. That’s what I love about indie books because it’s a chance to see the author’s perspective, and become attached to their characters.

As a young adult reader myself, my favorite books are the novels in which I can relate. Our favorite genres and personalities are changing and evolving. Books are opportunities to flee our lives and experience new things through these characters. This is the important job of authors, to create characters: animals, people, faeries, mythological beings, or even aliens that can, in a very simple way, change the lives of a reader.  

Approaching a Reader in the Wild

Skyler Boudreau Editorial Contributor

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor

Contrary to what you may hear, readers are not an endangered species. Their habitats are growing by the day, as more bookstores and libraries are constructed and their beloved authors continue to produce an endless food supply, nurturing the sharp minds of this truly unique animal. With the creation of e-readers and audiobooks, access to stories (mandatory for species survival) is more widely available than ever before. As the species continues to thrive, your chances of running into a reader in the wild increase.

What happens if you do stumble across one? How should you react? Are they aggressive? Do they bite? For this example, we will use a common subspecies of reader; the Coffee Shop Reader.

The Coffee Shop Reader isn’t necessarily found in a coffee shop. You can find one in many different eating establishments, from your local diner to a burger joint. Not all Coffee Shop Readers look alike either. They are, however, still relatively easy to identify with the untrained eye. Just search for the book in their hands and the hyper focused look in their eyes as they become completely invested in the fates of their favorite characters.

As you observe the Coffee Shop Reader with a smile, you are struck with a burning question. What in the world are they reading? Something has captured their attention so completely that they are scarcely aware of their surroundings. You must know what this incredible book is.

You can’t see the cover from your angle. As you shift in your seat to get a better look, the Coffee Shop Reader places their open book down on the table and leans over it with obvious hunger, hunger that not even their half-finished plate of fries will satisfy. Damn it.

You’re left with one option. One you desperately wanted to avoid. You take a calming breath and prepare to interrupt the Coffee Shop Reader’s trance.

“Hey, uh, what are you reading?”

The Coffee Shop Reader doesn’t hear you the first time, and you are forced to repeat your question. They jump. A brief flash of annoyance crosses their face.

“What is it?” they ask.

“Um. I just wanted to know what you’re reading,” you say.

The Coffee Shop Reader’s face softens. They smile and your heart stops pounding.

“Oh, it’s American Gods. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author,” they say.


You pull a worn and tattered paperback novel from your purse. It took hours of internet shopping for you to find a purse you were satisfied with, one that could fit at least one paperback of your own inside along with your wallet, keys, and all the other miscellaneous items that end up at the bottom of purses.

The Coffee Shop Reader’s face lights up with obvious delight when they see the cover. The edition is older, but it’s unmistakably the same book. They take their backpack (probably full of other books) off the chair next to them and set it on the ground. You recognize an invitation when you see one and leap out of your own chair to join them.

Ah the wonders of nature.

Creating a Book Video that Complements the Book’s Marketing

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

We have discussed many times about how book videos can benefit a book’s marketing campaign. But we have never talked about what that book video should look like! I don’t mean about what format (video or slide show…narrated or not…). I am talking about the script, the images, the soundtrack. How are we to decide how much to give out, what imagery do we want to create for the setting, the characters…etc., and how much of the story do we want to give up? Below are some tips on how to create a book video that will complement a title’s marketing campaign:

·         Become a reader – Yes, even if you wrote the book, read it. When we have on our author hat or editor hat we might miss details that might hook a reader’s eye. Use what you find to develop a script for the video. By doing this you will avoid just repeating the synopsis behind the book.

·         Play with the point of view of the story. Instead of portraying the story through the narration, have a character tell what the story is about.

·         Don’t decide how much of the story to give away. Begin writing the script, see where that takes you and then pick the story frame that makes sense and matches the time allowance.

·         Whether you chose to use pics or video. Remember, you do not want to substitute the book’s imagery with others that do not match descriptions. So be mindful of setting and characters when choosing pictures and videos. For example, if you are speaking of the White House, don’t chose a picture of the Capitol in Texas…If the main character is a red-head Irish girl, don’t choose just any model with red hair, instead find one that looks Irish!

·         Same thing with soundtrack. If the story is about a rock & roll musician, don’t use a piece of music that sounds country or British rock. Make sure it also matches the setting. If the setting is in the 70s New York, make sure the music takes you there!

·         Make sure color scheme is the same as your cover or illustrations.  

These suggestions might sound somewhat obvious to some, but when you listen to song after song, and look at picture after picture as you search for a match, it’s easy to pick the wrong one because the price was less or maybe we forgot which one was the one we liked before. By creating a script beforehand and jotting a bullet point description of what vision you have as a reader (not as the author), the book video most likely will complement the marketing by establishing an imprint on the audience which might help them decide to check out the book. For more information on how we can help authors visit For more information on our book video series click here.


Reading Block? Yes, You Read it Right…

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Authors are big talkers about writing block…but what about reading block? I had always assumed that all authors read as much as they write. But my biggest surprise during the 10 years I have been working with authors is how little reading many of them get done! Meeting authors that don’t read has always baffled me, but even I (book worm by birth) have gone through reading blocks at different times throughout my life. Contrary to the belief of many new Indie authors, reading is necessary in order to master writing. I expanded my genre repertoire in order to get better by improving on vocabulary, style and techniques, before I even considered writing for publication. In fact, reading is not only necessary to improve writing skills, it is necessary for research on the topic whether for fiction or non-fiction, for marketing, to establish fan following, and much more. Below are some examples on how to get reading while writing:

1)      Schedule reading time as work time. You need to consider reading as part as your job as a writer. Even if it is thirty minutes a day, you will be able to notice a big difference in your writing skills.

2)      Consider choosing reads within the genre you are currently writing. This will not only benefit your current work, but if you write reviews on the books you are reading, it can also help you to make contacts as well as gain fans for your upcoming book.

3)      Join a critique group. This is my favorite, as I not only read other authors’ work, I also get feedback on mine while I am working on it!

4)      Join a book club. The great thing about book clubs is that they more than likely will be interested in reading your book, too. However, what I really like about book clubs is that you are dealing with avid readers and can make note of what they want to see in a book.

It is no secret that the writer’s lifestyle is more isolating than glamorous. But the funny thing is that the more we isolate ourselves within our work, the more prone we are to blocking ourselves. Reading is the medicine for that. By using reading groups to get you out of your isolation at least once a month you will also harvest benefits for your platform. Happy reading!

For more information on how we can help Authors visit To find a great read, check out our reviews at


Have Some Science with Your Fiction!

Skyler Boudreau Editorial Contributor/Reviewer

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor/Reviewer

Learning to read is undoubtedly an important piece of a student’s education. You’re confronted with the written word every day, whether it appears on road signs, labels food packages, or the instructions that came with the nifty new dresser you’re trying to build. Reading is one of those things that is never going to go away.

I don’t recall ever studying the benefits of reading fiction, specifically. There must be some, after all, beyond the obvious answer of “it’s fun!” It’s a topic I became very interested in recently and I decided to do a little research.

One of the most intriguing articles I found online is about a study conducted at Emory University a few years ago. According to the article, the study found that reading fiction strengthened a reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Any avid reader will tell you that seeing a conflict from various perspectives is a pivotal piece of a good book. But most people know it’s also a skill that will make going through everyday life much easier.

Reading for fun is just as important as reading for information. I love a good nonfiction book as much as the next person. I also like analyzing symbolism, metaphor, and all the other devices used in fiction. It’s like trying to assemble a giant puzzle. The study mentioned above demonstrates a more subtle benefit to the hobby.

According to a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center, “[o]verall, Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when the Center first began conducting the surveys of Americans’ book reading habits.”

The survey goes on to discuss the steady consumption of eBooks and the growing popularity of audiobooks. The different mediums available nowadays make novels available for a wider array of potential consumers. I think it’s important to teach that audience why reading fiction for fun is just as important as reading for a class assignment and why they should read beyond what’s necessary.

There is plenty of other research on the science behind reading out there. This is just one small aspect of it. I encourage you to check out the sources I linked in this post and to do some further reading on your own.